For the 5th year, PH excluded from latest USTR’s IPR watchlist

Published April 29, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Lee C. Chipongian

For the fifth year in a row, the Philippines is not on the US Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a watchlist that identifies US trading partners that they deemed deficient in IPR protection and enforcement.

The country’s IPR laws and enforcement – apparently effective enough as far as US trade policy is concerned – has enabled the country to evade the USTR’s watchlist of IPR violators since 2014, when it was first removed from the watchlist after being on it continuously since 1989.

In the 2018 Special 301 Report however, the USTR noted that the Philippines’ trademark processing is still slow, despite an environment where there is “fair and equitable market access.”

The Philippines is specifically named as having “slow opposition proceedings” which could delay the trademark registration process. Brazil, India and Malaysia were also mentioned as countries with slow opposition proceedings. India is on the 2018 Priority Watch List while Brazil is in the less severe Watch List.

The USTR’s 2018 Special 301 Report identified 36 countries and 12 of these are on the Priority Watch List of trading partners that have inadequate or ineffective IPR protection or enforcement or actions that “limit market access for persons relying on IP protection.”

The 12 countries are Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Ukraine, and Venezuela. China’s been on this list for 14 years.

The 24 countries on the Watch List are: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

“Trademarks help consumers distinguish providers of products and services from each other and thereby serve a critical source identification role,” the report said. “The goodwill represented in a company’s trademark is often one of a company’s most valuable business assets. However, in numerous countries, legal and procedural obstacles exist to securing trademark rights.”

The USTR cited as example several countries that are not transparent or consistent in their trademark registration procedures, such as the United Arab Emirates with its high trademark fees and China’s inflexible descriptions of goods and services, as well as that country’s insufficient “legal weight,” unreasonably high standards for establishing well-known mark status, and a lack of transparency in all phases of trademark prosecution.

The report said that due to the EU’s “aggressive promotion of its exclusionary GI (Geographical Indications) policies” the US continue to pursue what it calls “intensive engagement in promoting and protecting access to foreign markets for US exporters of products that are trademark protected or are identified by common names.”

The Philippines is one of the countries that the US is advancing free trade agreements as a result of the GI provisions of the EU.

While there are no other mention of specific Philippine IPR laws commended by the USTR, they did cite the country’s effective enforcement of unauthorized use of camcording inside movie theaters.

“The US urges countries to adopt laws and enforcement practices designed to prevent unauthorized camcording, such as laws that have been adopted in Canada, Japan, and the Philippines,” the report said.

Based on US government estimates, about 30 percent of all employment in the US or 45.5 million jobs rely on IP-intensive industries. The report “draws attention to IP-related trade barriers and the steps foreign countries can take to open their markets to IP-intensive goods — steps that help to protect US jobs, create opportunities for job growth, and promote free and fair trade that benefits all Americans.”